The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation (Intro)
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law
Christopher Jon Sprigman
University of Virginia School of Law
June 1, 2012
Oxford University Press, 2012
UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper No. 12-18
From the shopping mall to the corner bistro, knockoffs are everywhere in today's marketplace. Conventional wisdom holds that copying kills creativity, and that laws that protect against copies are essential to innovation -- and economic success. But are copyrights and patents always necessary? In The Knockoff Economy, we argue that creativity can not only survive in the face of copying, but can thrive.
The Knockoff Economy approaches the question of incentives and innovation in a new way -- by exploring creative fields where copying is generally legal, such as fashion, food, and even professional football. These important but rarely studied industries reveal a nuanced and fascinating relationship between imitation and innovation. In some creative fields, copying is kept in check through informal industry norms enforced by private sanctions. In others, the freedom to copy actually promotes creativity. High fashion gave rise to the very term "knockoff," yet the freedom to imitate great designs only makes the fashion cycle run faster -- and forces the fashion industry to be even more creative.
The Knockoff Economy ranges from food to font design to football plays to finance, examining how and why each of these vibrant industries remains innovative even when imitation is common. There is an important thread that ties all these instances together -- successful creative industries can evolve to the point where they become inoculated against -- and even profit from -- a world of free and easy copying. And there are important lessons here for copyright-focused industries, like music and film, that have struggled as digital technologies have made copying increasingly widespread and difficult to stop.
By looking at markets that fall outside normal IP law, The Knockoff Economy demonstrates that not only is a great deal of innovation possible without intellectual property, but that intellectual property's absence is sometimes better for innovation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: September 7, 2012 ; Last revised: September 26, 2012
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